Blu-ray Review: The Burning



There’s strange feeling watching a teenage summer camp slaughter flick that’s populated with future Oscar, Emmy and Tony winners. Even weirder is knowing that three of the people behind the script would soon be major players in Hollywood. Yet even with such a noble pedigree, The Burning doesn’t get that much buzz as any of the Friday 13th titles. People always mention that Kevin Bacon was in Friday the 13th, but The Burning is overloaded with future stars that it should have been the late night cable staple for the last three decades. Who wouldn’t want to see Fisher Stevens attacked by a monster after watching Short Circuit?

The Burning starts out with kids at a Camp Blackfoot eager to play a nasty prank on the groundskeeper named Cropsy (Lou David). They don’t merely toilet paper his tree. They sneak into his cabin and wake him up with a burning skull. This prank quickly snowballs since there’s so much flammable stuff inside the cabin. Not to give away the big burn stunt, but he eventually falls into the lake, but doesn’t vanish into the murky depths. He eventually ends up in a New York City burn ward where an orderly uses the disfigured Cropsy as a way to gross out new doctors. But Cropsy isn’t up for being a sideshow freak. Five years later he gets out of the hospital. He seeks a little attention from a street hooker, but that goes really wrong. This eventually leads to Cropsy returning to the country. Turns Camp Blackfoot is gone since it’s never good to be known as the place where campers set fire to the groundskeeper. Now there’s Camp Stonewater that’s full of future superstars. Sure Cropsy wasn’t set on fire by Brian Backer (Mark Ratner in Fast Times At Ridgemont High), Jason Alexander (George on Seinfeld), Fisher Stevens (Short Circuit and Oscar winning documentary producer of The Cove) and Holly Hunter (Raising Arizona). But that doesn’t mean he’s just going to move on from his hate and get professional help. He’s ready to pick up a pair of massive garden shears and chop away at the kids. Can he be stopped? What will satisfy his blood lust?

It’s a major bloodletting on land and water courtesy of the real star of Friday 13th. Special Effects God Tom Savini brings his gore-tasms to another camp. This puts those shears to work as they chop off fingers and punch holes in throats. He made sure people have nightmares while in the gardening section at Ace Hardware.

What’s really disturbing about the film is that among the six guys it took to write the script is Harvey and Bob Weinstein. You might know them best as the founders of Miramax films. While people now think of Harvey as Mr. Oscars with his prestige films racking up the nominations, he started his cinema career by hunting down teens and cutting their guts out. There are people who swear Harvey terrorizes their films with his cutting crazed snips. Brad Grey was also a writer who went onto bigger things. After being executive producer of The Sopranos, he’s now head of Paramount Pictures. How can none of these three showbiz heavyweights not green light The Burning Two: A Second Snip?

What’s a shame is the film could have been a tag moment in indie cinema. It was distributed by Filmways shortly after they bought American International Pictures. This movie could have linked Sam Arkoff with the Weinsteins. Sam would have done a much better job distributing the film. He made The Incredible Melting Man popular. The Burning didn’t do well during it’s theatrical run. The key to an exploitation film is the ability to reissue a film and its publicity when a supporting actor becomes a superstar. During the height of Seinfeld‘s popularity, they could have scored quick bucks calling George Costanza Goes to Camp. With The Rat in the lead, they could have called it Dead Times at Ridgemont Lake. They did sneak it back out with the title Cropsy. The box office still didn’t catch fire like Cropsy. At least now you can enjoy him terrorizing young faces of today’s stars.

The video is 1.78.1 anamorphic. The 1080p image burns on the screen when they set Cropsy on fire. You can really appreciate the care Tom Savini took in his bloody stunts with the details on the screen. The audio is DTS HD Master Audio and Dolby Digital Mono. You can hear the crackle as he escapes his burning bed. The movie is subtitled.

DVD with the movie and bonus features.

Audio Commentary features director Tony Maylam and journalist Alan Jones. Maylam discuses the battles with the MPAA about Savini’s effects. He mentions he went Dario Argento and held the shears in a few shots.

Blood ‘N’ Fire Memories (17:59) spends time with Tom Savini. Tom gives views a massive spoiler alert since he’s going to explain a lot of the big stunts. Heed this man’s warning. He talks about passing up Friday 13th Part II for The Burning. This was a good choice since he recently popped up in Harvey’s production of Django Unchained.

Slash & Cut (12:02) gives us time with the editor Jack Shoulder. Turns out he was able to flip this gig and his connection with New Line into directing A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge. Nice to see the editor get a little respect.

Cropsy Speaks (11:16) unmasks actor Lou David. He bemoans the lack of a real backstory for his character. Was he a major creep or an innocent victim of cruel campers? He breaks down how his part went into the big fire scene. He seems eager for The Burning II.

Summer Camp Nightmare (6:44) speaks with actress Leah Ayres. She’s not a fan of horror films. She did go on to appear on The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Her big role was Marcia Brady Logan on The Bradys series in 1990.

Behind-The-Scenes Footage (7:45) is video shot by the crew. There’s footage of Savini on fire.

Theatrical Trailer (1:26) scares us with the garden shears.

Make-Up Effects Still Gallery
show what Savini and crew created.

Poster & Still Gallery illustrates how the movie was promoted.

Original Screenplay is a pdf on the DVD that works with Mac and PC.

The Burning shows what happens when future superstars get slaughtered by future Hollywood bigwigs. The movie is gruesome fun from the camp killing genre with Savini keeping up the shocking effects.

Scream Factory and MGM present The Burning. Directed by Tony Maylam. Screenplay by: Bob Weinstein and Peter Lawrence. Story by: Harvey Weinstein, Tony Maylam and Brad Grey. Starring: Jason Alexander, Leah Ayres, Holly Hunter and Fisher Stevens. Running Time: 91 minutes. Released: May 21, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.

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